WOMAD 2018: Everyone’s invited

The ultimate world festival is almost upon us again: the World of Music, Arts and Dance Festival, or WOMAD to its friends


What is WOMAD?

Only the biggest celebration of world music in the UK. Aside from that small feature, it’s a place of relaxation for your body and mind; a weekend of gentle learning; an embrace of other cultures and stories; a gigantic family; and a place to have a jolly good dance.

Aside from the usual festivities, WOMAD brings music and artists to life, taking you backstage with workshops, talks and demonstrations by groups from around the world. Last year’s highlights included a workshop with champion beatboxers Bellatrix and Grace Savage, a powerful presentation from the Khmer Rouge Survivors, and a talk that explored all the ins and outs of the death sentence by Clive Stafford Smith. The Taste the World stage is also not to be missed with its super intimate setting and ingenious sharing of world food cooked by the artists; this year, I can’t wait to catch Melissa Laveaux and her gorgeous smoky voice. Is there anything more unifying than sharing new food and good music with strangers?

Who will be there?

Everyone you’ve never heard of – plus some people you have. The current line up includes bands and music from more than 75 countries, and the draw of this festival is in large part the discovery. If you turn up at WOMAD, you will leave with an array of new music you can’t wait to show your friends. As well as some new friends to show your friends – the crowd at WOMAD is one of the nicest you’ll ever meet. It’s not the kind of festival where you’ll get mangled and puke on someone’s feet – more likely you’ll pick up a group of higgledy piggledy friends of all ages and go to laughing yoga together.

The best bits

If you’re looking for a holiday offering you some of the cultural highlights of tens of countries and the relaxation of a two week trip without bankrupting yourself or taking time off work, this particular weekend in Wiltshire in July is for you. It’s a party without a VIP list, a welcoming squeeze together of arts and music and dance and craft, a combination of intelligent people discussing real world problems with an eclectic rave in a tent. Everyone’s invited and it would be difficult not to join in. A highlight for me is always, always seeing music I never even knew existed – this year I’ve barely studied the line up and look forward to perusing the arena, meandering in any direction my ears prefer. Simply sitting under the trees watching the world go by is another: I hope it’s sunny. The World of Words for me always brings new things, and at any moment I’m undecided on what to do you’ll find me there, listening to heartbreaking and soul-raising poetry or leading-edge talks on the world today. The Human Books stall, an innovative corner of yurts in which you can discover stories of the human condition straight from those who have lived through them, has thus far overwhelmed me: the chance to ask anything on topics as diverse and extraordinary as any human being can be has made me shy. This year, it’s happening.

I’m convinced. How can I join in?

Grab your ticket from WOMAD UK’s website and choose whether you want to celebrate the world for three days or four. This year, as for the last twelve years, it will be held in Charlton Park, Malmesbury, a lush park with woodland and plenty of space for camping, and as always, it’ll be the last weekend in July (26th-30th).